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Summit County Public Health takes dental care on road

6/9/2016 - West Side Leader
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By Pam Lifke

A health department employee prepares the equipment to serve patients in a school setting.
GREATER AKRON — Summit County Public Health (SCPH) is taking dental care on the road with new mobile equipment that can be set up nearly anywhere.

The new equipment was the solution to a costly problem, according to SCPH officials. The agency’s aging mobile dental clinic, housed in a vehicle similar to a box truck, was reaching the end of its useful life and a replacement was expected to cost several hundred thousand dollars, said Patrice Sirmons, SCPH clinical health supervisor.

The new equipment — purchased for around $50,000 — can be loaded into a minivan and set up by the dental hygienist and dental assistant in almost any location that gives them access to a sink, said Sirmons. The setup is quick and easy, which Sirmons said surprised her.

“The first time we set it up, we thought it would be a whole day excursion,” she said.

The concept has had nothing but positive feedback from the staff, she said.

The mobile operatory, which includes a dental chair and X-ray equipment, is packed in four boxes, said Sirmons. Supplies are transported in plastic totes. Although mobile dental equipment has been around for more than 30 years, this latest generation of equipment, by manufacturer Aseptico, is the first to make mobile dentistry possible in any location without standard dentistry plumbing, according to information from the company.

“The new equipment is something we’re very excited about,” Sirmons said. “It has allowed us to pack it up and open a dental office wherever. That’s something I never even knew was possible prior to taking this job.”

SCPH began using the equipment in March, she said.

“When I say it’s new, it’s very new,” Sirmons said.

At this time, the mobile dental clinic is funded by Community Development Block Grants to provide services in schools, low-income housing and senior centers, Sirmons said. SCPH is working to win additional grants to fund mobile clinics for other populations, she added.

Dental care is one of the greatest unmet needs in Summit County, Sirmons said.

SCPH took the first step in addressing the need when it opened a permanent dental clinic at SCPH headquarters on West Market Street in West Akron, Sirmons said. The nearly year-old clinic is open five days a week and is staffed by a full-time dentist employed by SCPH. The clinic takes appointments for routine dental care and is usually able to accommodate emergencies, Sirmons said.

The dental clinic accepts all insurance plans and Medicaid. Services also are made available on a sliding fee scale based on household size and income, she said. Payment plans are available, she added.

The mobile dental setup augments clinic services. SCPH contracts with dentists to staff the mobile clinic, she said.

For more information, visit www.scphoh.org.

Summit County Public Health can set up a dental office nearly anywhere with equipment that can be loaded into a minivan, shown above.
Photos courtesy of Summit County Public Health

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